A British study examined whether children who use touch screens before school age suffer from concentration difficulties. The result: no far-reaching conclusion can be drawn, but children who used touch screens early on showed signs of poorer ability to concentrate.
Covid-19 has meant increased screen time for a significant part of the working population, but the pandemic has also caused children to spend more time in front of telephones and tablets. It writes Engineering and Technology.
– The use of smart phones and tablets among babies and toddlers has increased rapidly in recent years. The first years of life are crucial for children to learn how to control their attention and ignore distractions, early knowledge that is known to be important for academic success later in life, says Tim Smith, professor at Birkbeck’s Center for Brain and Cognitive Development.
He has led the British study which is a collaboration between the universities of the University of London, Kings College London, the University of Bath and Birkbeck. The team wanted to investigate whether early use of touch screens contributes to affecting young children’s ability to concentrate. The study was published in August 2020 in the journal Jama Pediatrics.
In theirs Tablet Project one-year-olds with varying experience of using touch screens were studied. The study then followed the children’s development over 2.5 years. The children visited the researchers when they were twelve months old, at the age of 18 months and finally as 3.5-year-olds. In the laboratory, they performed tests on a computer at the same time as the ability to concentrate was measured by registering the children’s eye movements.
“We found that infants and toddlers with a high use of touch screens were faster when they examined objects that appeared, but had a poorer ability when it came to ignoring distracting objects compared to those who had a lower degree of use,” says Smith. .
The researchers state that they can not yet draw a definite conclusion that the difference would be due to the degree of use, as it may be the case that children with a lower ability to concentrate naturally have a greater attraction to touch screens in general. The next step for researchers is to compare what happens on screen with distractions in real life.